The Coen Brothers' classic The Big Lebowski hit theaters more than ten years ago, and while it didn't make a big splash at the box office, it's enjoyed a cult status which only seems to grow as time goes on. If ever proof of cult status were required, though, Lebowskifest would be exhibit A. It all started in 2002 in Louisville, Kentucky, when the fest's two founders (also known as the "Founding Dudes") realized they both shared a passion for quoting The Big Lebowski and reasoned that if people were willing to go to tattoo conventions and classic car conventions and Star Trek conventions, wasn't it reasonable that people might also come to a convention which featured free bowling, Lebowksi-inspired costume contests and a bar stocked with White Russians? As the Dude himself said, "If you will it, it is no dream."
The fest grew, and now is held several times a year in different cities around the country. It's become a two-day party, which not infrequently features guests who appeared in the film: everyone ranging from Jeff Bridges (the "Dude" himself) to the Big Lebowski himself (David Huddleston) and the guy who played Saddam Hussein in the Dude's elaborate, Busby-Berkeley-style dream sequences. It's even spawned a copycat festival across the pond, in London, known as "The Dude Abides." A journalist for the Guardian describes the scene at a 2005 Dude Abides fest:
Alongside myriad versions of The Dude (lank hair, woolly cardigan, shorts) there was every interpretation of the film's significant scenes you could think of: three men in red Lycra catsuits were wielding giant scissors, re-enacting a nightmare The Dude has about having his testicles chopped off by nihilists; the wheelchair-user Jeffrey Lebowski mentions having his legs blown away by "some Chinaman in Korea" - a Chinaman turned up clutching two severed legs.
Over a soundtrack of Creedence Clearwater (The Dude's kind of band) and as many White Russians as you could drink, the bowling commenced in earnest. The large number of attractive women - many dressed as bowling pin-clad figures from The Dude's fantasies - suggested that these Big Lebowski fans did have a life outside of the film, and by the end of the evening the drunken bad behaviour confirmed Scott's claim that this was indeed cooler than the average Star Trek convention.
"London can be a lonely place. The Dude is the kind of guy we'd all like as our friend," he said from his wheelchair (he came as Lebowski). Then a nihilist screamed, "I believe in nothing!" and grabbed Scott's wheelchair to send it careering down a bowling lane and hit a perfect strike. That was the last I saw of him.
For those of you who are interested, there's a Lebowskifest coming up in LA on May 7-8 at the Wiltern Theater, where 8-year-old Japanese guitar prodigy Yuto Miyazawa will rock the house, followed by a screening of the movie (akin, I imagine, to screening the Rocky Horror Picture Show surrounded by devoted fans). Day two is all about bowling, White Russians, costumes and surprise guests.